By Michael LoMonico
Folger Education was once again a major player at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in November. Since the conference was held just outside Washington, DC, the Folger Shakespeare Library was able to have our largest presence there in years.
Here’s some of what we heard:
- The lucky group of teachers who attended a Thursday afternoon session at the Folger were gushing over what they saw: a close look at some of the rarest books in the Folger collection including a First Folio, copies of both the first and second Quarto editions of Romeo and Juliet, and a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. They also told us that they were thrilled to speak some Shakespeare lines on the stage of the Folger Theater.
- Many of the 70 teachers who came to the Friday evening performance of Julius Caesar at the Folger said that it was the highlight of the conference. One said he was “really blown away” by the play and loved recognizing the pop culture lines like “the fault is in our stars,” though what Shakespeare wrote was “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Those attending were also treated to an enlightening chat with the cast after the play.
- Back at the conference, Friday featured five sessions from Folger Education, including a standing-room-only master class with a group of 9th grade students from Baltimore City College High School. Michael Tolaydo helped these newcomers to Shakespeare take a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and get it on its feet. As one student said, “I thought it would be hard with all the ‘thou’s’ and ‘thee’s, but it became understandable as we read through the scene more.” As one teacher tweeted, “So great watching kids close read & engage w/ text!”
- In the Exhibit Hall, there was lots of chatter at the Folger booth (we called it Mac Booth) about the July 5-10 Summer Academy, and several teachers applied on the spot. They were also interested to learn more about the Folger Digital Texts, and the Digital Image Collection.
- Teachers were quite engaged with the 15-minute Will Lessons at the booth including “”No Fear” and Shakespeare”, “Reality TV Shakespeare”, “Reading Shakespeare through Visual Art”, “Sonnet Mash-ups”, and “Quickwrite with Shakespeare!”
- Several teachers told us that Saturday evening’s Julius Caesar Flash Mob was the most fun they had at the conference. Staged at the lobby entrance at the Gaylord, a dozen Marc Antony wannabees lined up on the stairs to each read a line from the Antony’s funeral oration. Over 100 Plebeians gathered below to respond and shout lines like, “There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony” and “Read the will! We’ll hear it, Antony!” and “Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live!” Even the Gaylord’s security guards had a great time.
In the comments below, please add you favorite memories of NCTE 14.
Michael LoMonico taught English for 33 years. He is currently the National Education Consultant for Folger Education and the author or That Shakespeare Kid.